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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Track and field notebook: Mead’s Isaiah Whitman overcomes injuries in weight room

By Greg Lee For The Spokesman-Review

The further Isaiah Whitman gets into the season, the more grateful he becomes.

This week marks the furthest point of any season for the Mead senior pole vaulter.

The past two years were cut short because of surgeries to repair labral tears in his hip joints.

It was three years ago last weekend, at a meet in Cheney, that Whitman suffered an injury pole vaulters fear.

“I wasn’t able to push the pole hard enough to get into the pit,” Whitman said. “The pole bent and chucked me to the side.”

Most of his body landed on the padded pit, but his right leg got caught between the standards and the pit, hitting the concrete.

The concrete didn’t budge.

At first Whitman didn’t know what happened. A few moments later he realized he had broken his tibia and fibula.

“It was horrific,” Mead assistant coach Mike Fleming said.

“I was laying on the pit and looked at my right leg and it was pointing at a 90-degree angle,” Whitman said. “I can’t say that was a pleasant sight. I tried to lift my leg and it was flopped over. Then the pain hit me all at once. It was really painful.”

Earlier at the meet, Whitman had ordered a sandwich from Jimmy John’s.

“This is no joke,” Whitman said. “Jimmy John’s got there faster than the ambulance.”

Surgery was required to insert two plates and 13 screws.

It’s been said that being pole vaulter takes equal parts insanity and courage.

“I was only afraid to jump when track started my sophomore season,” Whitman said about coming back after the accident. “I got over it. When you’re vaulting, you can’t be scared. Your mind is telling you, ‘You can’t be upside down while not over the padding,’ but you must fight that. You learn that you’ll be OK. You’ll know what it feels like when you’re not going to be safe and you can bail from there.”

Whitman tried to fight through the pain in his hips the last two years.

“I tried competing, but it was so painful it just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

After surgery last year, Whitman became a beast in the weight room. He gained 43 pounds, mostly muscle mass.

“He just went nuts in the weight room,” Fleming said. “He’s so strong now.”

Whitman realized earlier this season that he needed to lose some weight without losing strength. He’s dropped 12 pounds.

“I think I overdid it a little on the bulk work,” Whitman said. “So I’ve been cutting weight and trying to maintain strength. If I’m lighter but maintain strength, it will throw me higher in the air.”

In his first meet of the season, he leaped a personal-best 14 feet, 6 inches. He has cleared 14-0 the last two meets, including last Saturday at the Pasco Invite where he took second.

“His strength will help through the season,” Fleming said. “His technique isn’t good, but I mean that in the most complimentary way because it means he has a lot of room for improvement. He hasn’t had a full season.”

Whitman has some high goals despite some technical flaws, most of which are from lack of repetitions. He wants to tie the school record of 15-9 and he’d like to win a state championship.

“He can get into the 15s, but I’ll leave it as vague as that because he’s really raw,” Fleming said. “How fast will he get better is the question.”

Whitman is grateful to have Fleming as his coach.

“He’s taught me so much,” Whitman said.

Whitman is making strides.

“He’s in control of the pole much better now,” Fleming said. “He’s paid the price, especially in the weight room.”

Whitman is ranked fourth among 4A vaulters. The leader is at 15-0. He hopes to see a payoff next month.

“With everything I’ve been through, if I keep working hard winning (a state title) would be a cool accomplishment,” Whitman said.

The 10-day weather forecast shows warmer temperatures moving into the area.

“If we get some warm weather, I think I’ll have some big jumps,” he said. “I’d say I’m just starting to unleash what I have to offer.”

Tie in early showdown

There are a possible 150 points in a dual meet and those points were split evenly during a season-opening showdown between the Lewis and Clark and Central Valley girls at Hart Field last Thursday.

Officials looked in a league handbook to see if ties can be broken, but they determined the result will stand.

That means LC and CV will likely share the dual championship. The talent-rich teams aren’t likely to be knocked off by another team.

And it’s just fine with the coaches that the tie remains a tie.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of paths to beat them, so to make it that interesting was really fun to watch,” CV coach Geoff Arte said. “Both teams competed like crazy with kids on both teams doing some amazingly hard doubles, triples and even quadrupling (in events). Their sprint crew is obviously so good, but their distance stable is one of the best I have seen. I was proud of our kids’ effort and fight.”

“To have the results we had against a team as good as CV, how can you not be happy?” LC coach Dan Hilsendeger said. “I am really happy with how the girls are progressing.”

Upon further review

The Deer Park boys ended up winning the Cashmere Invite. It was posted incorrectly on that Cashmere won.

Kaden Newman jumped 40-1 1/2 in the triple jump, earning the Stags six points for third place. His mark wasn’t included in the final team points. That was enough to give Deer Park 83 points, edging Cashmere by a point, Stags coach Cameron Gilbert reports.


The 55th annual Mooberry Relays is Saturday at Rogers. The meet begins at Spokane Community College with a hammer exhibition for boys and girls. Other field events and races begin at 9 a.m.